My Word for 2013

In December, I took part in a free 30 Day Goal Setting Challenge offered by an up-and-coming life coach.  A friend recommended it, and upon looking at this life coach’s methods and organization tools, I thought it might be fun.  If you know me at all, you know that I love love LOVE new ways to be organized about ANYTHING.  Out and proud Type A personality right here, baby!

So, I gave it a shot.  I wrote about the woman I hoped to be by the time I rang in 2014.  From that vision, I crafted beautiful lists of the ways I hoped to improve in all areas of my life: physically, fiscally, professionally, educationally, spiritually, personally, relationally, aesthetically, emotionally, mentally, and blog-writing-ally.  (Not a word, I know, but I wanted to keep the flow going.)  I developed individual goals within each area and wrote out a plan to achieve each of those goals.  Finally, I broke those plans down into day-by-day to-do lists.  (Did I mention that I’m a little bit Type A?)

We are now almost two months into the new year…and I have all but literally thrown that list out the window.  While I was incredibly motivated during the goal writing process, I found myself incredibly unmotivated when the time came to actually work on said goals.  I mean, when you have eleven areas of your life you are trying to improve, it can be a little overwhelming.  Then, when you add the magnitude of this lifestyle overhaul to the fact that I’m something of an all-or-nothing girl, your only real options are to walk away or fail.  And let’s be honest here, I don’t do failure very well, so my (perceived) only option was to walk away

And that is exactly what I did.

While wallowing in accepting my self-defeat means of failure prevention, I began to see a trend in a few of the blogs I follow.  Women were writing about their “One Word” for 2013.  Not lists of resolutions.  Just one word.  This idea of choosing one word on which to focus for a year…it resonated with me.

No lengthy lists.  No detailed organizational tools.  No spreadsheets.  No dry erase boards.  No rewards programs.

Just

one

word.

Wow.

This got me thinking about the kind of word I might want to focus on this year.  I had spent hours and hours pondering and journaling about the kind of woman I want to be by the time this year came to an end.  What one word could possibly sum up all that this woman was?  What one word would encapsulate the multitude of goals I had created for myself?

It took some time to sift through many words that didn’t feel quite right, but after much prayer and consideration, a word came to me.  And with that word I felt a deep peace in my soul.

Redeemed

All the other words I thought of had been heavily based in action.  Try.  Go.  Do.  Act.  But this word…it doesn’t ask me to go or do anything. Instead, it asks me to remain and be.  Remain in the truth of God’s redemption.  Be redeemed.

I realized that all the goals and resolutions I had created for myself were my way of using perfectionism and control in an attempt to make up for my past.  “If I can just get these parts of my future right, it will atone for the parts of my past that I didn’t get right.”  But that is so far from the truth!  My present actions will not undo my past sins.  I do not need perfection.  I need redemption.

This redemption refutes each lie as satan whispers it in my ear.  “You are trash.”  “You messed up.”  “You aren’t forgivable.”  “No one will ever love you again.”  “Your dreams are ruined.”  “All you had hoped for is gone because of what you have done.”  On one level, I know that these are lies, but I also know it will take time and work before I am fully convinced.

Even after two months of mediating on this word, I still struggle to fully grasp what it means for my life.  It isn’t tangible.  It isn’t something that can be turned into a list of steps to cross off, accomplishments to achieve so I can say that I did it.  I can’t create a 12 step program that will lead me to success.  I can’t approach this process the way I usually approach life.  I can only enter each moment of every day recognizing that I am redeemed.

This is my call to always, always, always remember that He has redeemed me and He continues to redeem me again and again every single day.

He redeems me from my sin and my brokenness.

He redeems me from the future I had planned, for the future HE has planned.

He redeems my past, my present, my future.

Through Him, my sins and my life have been redeemed.

This year, I will live in recognition and acceptance of God’s redemption, because

I

am

REDEEMED.

Yours,
breylee♥

On Niche Blogging and Finding My Voice

I read a lot of mommy blogs.  Seriously.  A. LOT.  But, it makes perfect sense.  A great deal of my friends are mommies who blog.  I love them, I adore their kids, I read their blogs.  I want to be a mommy someday, specifically an adoptive mommy, so it goes without saying that I would read a handful of adoptive mommy blogs as well.  Some may call it obsessive, I call it being prepared ridiculously well in advance.

I read a variety of other types of blogs.  A friend of mine writes a fashion blog.  I read it.  I love the idea of doing tons of DIY projects and crafts, so I read some of those blogs.  I follow a few cooking blogs, because, well, there is a kitchen in my house I someday hope to use for more than pouring a bowl of cereal or making a PB&J.  Many of my friends are involved in some form of ministry, as missionaries, ministers, or seminary students, and I love reading their words of conviction, struggle, and encouragement.

I also read some others blogs that serve absolutely no purpose other than entertainment and wishful thinking. (*cough*webcomicsandweddingblogs*cough*)

But, as I read these blogs, I start to wonder.  Where is the voice that sounds like mine?  Where is my blogging niche?

I’m not a mommy blogger.

Or a fashion blogger.

Or a crafty blogger.

Or a cooking blogger.

Or a Jesus blogger.

Or a wedding blogger.

Or an artistically comical blogger.

I’m not really anything all that similar to any type of blog I follow.  I don’t quite fit in any of those niches.

I’m just a girl with an oft-neglected blog and some lofty aspiration to someday be one (or all) of the above types of blogger, rubbing elbows with the women whose blogs I read at the next big blogging conference.  (BlogHer, I’m looking at you.)

I’m just a girl, single and in her mid/late-twenties (in West Michigan, WHAT?!?!), not sure what she wants to be if when she grows up, straddling the space between entering the adult world and actually feeling like an adult.

I’m just a girl trying to find sure footing in her faith while searching for a sense of purpose, direction, and meaning in life.

Certainly there are other girls like me out there on the blogosphere, whose lives have gone in a very different direction than they had ever imagined.  I wish I could read their stories of feeling unfulfilled, listen to them as they share their longings and desires, and experience with them their struggles and triumphs as they navigate this thing called life.  But until I find those other blogs and can read other women’s stories, I will share my own.

I may not have a niche, but I do have a voice.

So, here it is.  Here I am.  Sorting out my day-to-day musings on this little blog I call home.

Vocally yours,
breylee♥

“The Event” (Or, what my roommates have been calling my recent break-up.)

About a month ago, the relationship I had been in for the past 2+ years ended.  Amicably.  Somewhat mutually.  (He broke up with me, but it was for reasons I had been thinking about as well.)  But it was still not without a great deal of pain.  And grief.  And tears.

Right after the break-up, I was in a daze.  I knew what had happened, but I still could not wrap my head around the conversation I had just finished.  I was sure he would call me back, say “just kidding”, and things would be the same again.  I would be very upset with him for pulling such a cruel prank, but I would forgive him and everything would be okay.  Even as I dropped my groceries on the kitchen floor and told my roommate what had just happened, I could not seem to process the reality of the situation.

She hugged me and I heard her cry a little bit; I honestly thought to myself, “Tears.  Yeah.  You’re supposed to cry when your heart is breaking.  I should probably be crying.  Okay then…why don’t I feel like crying?”

Shortly thereafter, I did feel like crying.  And then I could not stop.  It was as if the floodgates had opened and nothing short of an act of God could close them.  The reality of what had happened was finally setting in.  Our relationship had ended.  The man I had imagined spending the rest of my life with was no longer in my life.  I had just been broken up with by my very best friend.  The plans we had, the trips we would take, the colors we would have at our wedding (did I forget to mention that we had started planning a wedding some time before?); all of it was over.  Completely, irrevocably over.  Even though I knew it was for the best, I could not imagine my life going on without him by my side.

I took the next day off of work, vacillating between tears, confusion, anger, and phone calls.  I called my closest friends to let them know what had happened.  I called my friend who I was to move in with in a few months to let her know that the boy I was moving to be closer to had just broken my heart, and, needless to say, I was no longer moving.

Work the next day was a blessed distraction.  I didn’t much feel like talking to people, but a couple of my work friends came to my desk to see how I was doing.  Their caring helped me make it through the rest of the workweek until it was time for me to head home that weekend, because you are never too old to need your family when you are struggling.  Something about being in the home I grew up in helped to calm the sudden panic and heartache I had been experiencing during that first week.

At the encouragement of my roommate, I also began journaling as a means to process through this experience.  I think that was probably one of the best pieces of advice I received.  Externalizing and analyzing my thoughts and feelings has taught me so much over this last month.

I have learned a lot about grief.  It is not a pretty thing.  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance to not arrive on your doorstep each in their own tidy little package.  Rather, they pepper your entire life, ready to rear their ugly heads in absolutely no sensible order at the slightest provocation.  There is no easy “12-Step’ program to overcoming it.  Instead, you must simply take life as it comes to you, one day at a time.

I have learned a great deal about myself, what I want in a relationship, and what I don’t want.  There was so much that was absolutely beautiful and right about the love we had, but there was also so much that was not.  I am now able to look back on our 2+ years together and see more clearly the signs that it should not and would not be a forever love.  There was nothing wrong with him.  There was nothing wrong with me.  But there was something wrong with us.  (I want to be sure that no one gets the wrong idea from any of this.  Yes, I was hurt.  Yes, I am angry at him sometimes.  But he is not a bad person.  Please be clear on that.)

Finally, I have learned so much about the importance of friends, family, and faith when it comes to getting through difficult times.  I could not have made it this far without the amazing support system that has surrounded me during this last month.  Phone calls, emails, and text messages just to say “I’m thinking about you,” “I’m praying for you,” and “I love you” have meant the world to me.

I could not have survived this had it not been for my family.  I have spent more time on the phone with my mom, dad, and brother in the last month than I think I had in the last several months.  They have been willing to just sit and listen as I pour out my feelings completely uncensored.  They have been on the receiving end of my very misdirected anger.  And they have stood by me through all of it.

My friends and family have been there to provide a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to all of my ups and downs, and they have brought joy back into my life.  They have shared with me their experiences with grief, consoled me and reminded me that it will get better, and given me tools to deal with my own grief.

And I absolutely could never have gotten through this without God.  As cheesy as it may sound, He has been my strength during this time of great weakness.  I really don’t know how to explain it without using a ton of platitudes and sounding even more cheesy, so I’ll just leave it at this: In Him, I am learning what it means to really trust. I am learning what it means to be vulnerable. I am learning what it means to be held.

God is good.  Thanks for listening.

Much love,
breylee♥

List your luxuries

List Your Luxuries

There is a lot to complain about in this world.  The job market is tight.  Gas prices are sky rocketing.  The weather isn’t keeping up with the calendar.  The schools are failing our children.  Taxes are too high.  Jeans that fit your thighs never seem to fit your tush.

But have you ever taken a moment to consider just how amazing your life is?  Have you ever gone against conventional wisdom and actually counted your blessings?  Taken a step back and really examined your life for what it is?  Because, I’m sure if you did, all those complaints you could have would pale in comparison to the amazing luxuries that fill your life.

The email I received for Day 2 of Lent asked me to do just that: list my luxuries.  How have I been blessed when it comes to things like money, health, faith, freedom, and education.  I would encourage you to do the same, especially when you find yourself complaining about something that falls into one of these categories.  Sure, you have a head-cold, but you probably also have easy access to tissues and medicine unlike billions of people around the world.  You might have a test tomorrow that you really aren’t prepared for, but you also have free access to education regardless of your gender, ethnicity, social status, or economic standings.

Whether you believe it or not, you are blessed.  Trust me.

Luxuriously yours,
breylee♥

Ash Wednesday, a few days late

I recently had a job interview in which I was asked, “What would you say is one of your greatest weaknesses?”  I knew this question was coming, since it was always touted as one of the most common interview questions in those unbelievably boring, super repetitive, why-am-I-here-when-I-could-be-doing-anything-else professional development seminars I had to go to in college.  You know the ones where they tell you not to dress like a slob, make sure you brush your teeth, bring a copy of your resumé, and be sure to answer that question about your weaknesses in a way that makes them sound like a strength.  (What?!?)  And then give you all those other no-brainer tips on how to ace an interview and get any job you want…even though you know the job market is terrible and you will all actually probably end up moving back home to live with your parents and work the same job you did in high school.

But I digress.  When the woman who was interviewing me asked this question, I was honestly stumped.  Not in an overly self-confident “I have no weaknesses, I am the best at everything in the world” kind of way, but more in the “where would you like me to begin” way.  I know that I have weaknesses.  In the professional world, I tend to procrastinate a lot (this blog is actually a product of my procrastination) which is okay because I work very well under pressure, but isn’t so great because I’m pretty sure it is shortening my life.  I also lack a great deal of self-confidence, I’m scared of doing things I’m not great at because I don’t want to fail, I worry way too much, I sometimes make decisions on a whim rather than weighing the options while other times I spend so much time weighing the options that I end up too confused in the end to even pretend to make a decision, I am insanely self-critical to the point that it can be debilitating, I struggle with feeling like I’m not good at anything unless I’m the absolute best, I worry that people don’t like me or will stop liking me for any variety of reasons, I can be overly trusting of people who have not earned my trust, I can be judgmental, I struggle with depression, I can be prideful, I…

Yeah, I could go on, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea.  I’m full of weaknesses.  But that isn’t where this story ends.

As I began to explain in Wednesday’s post, Ash Wednesday is a day in the church that is there to direct people into an attitude of repentance, of recognizing one’s own sins and weaknesses, and become more attuned to the areas of one’s life in which God’s strength holds us up.  I may be weak, but my God is strong.  I may have weaknesses, but my God is my strength.  He is strong for me in places I am not.  He is even strong for me in places I think I’ve got covered.

So, what would I say is my greatest weakness?  All of them.  :)

Yours, weaknesses and all,
breylee♥

ReLENTless Acts of Justice: An Introduction

As many of you are probably already aware, last Wednesday marked the beginning of a very precious season of the Christian calendar: the season of Lent.  Many of you may have risen early and congregated at your place of worship, where ashes mixed with oil was placed on your forehead in the shape of a cross.  Or you arrived at work Wednesday morning and proceeded to inform some of your coworkers that they had something smudged on their foreheads.  (This happened to a friend of mine at work.)

A cross of ashes on a worshipper's forehead on Ash Wednesday

No matter how you know it, what you think of it, or whether you actively observe it, you probably mostly associate the Lenten season with less chocolate, soda, and meat and more church services and fish options on most fast food menus.  Believe it or not, that isn’t really the true reason for the season.  (Kind of like Santa isn’t who Christmas is all about and the Easter Bunny really has nothing to do with the real Easter.)

That isn’t to say that fasting is not a true part of Lent.  According to Wikipedia (great scholarly source, I know), Lent is all about Christians preparing themselves to mourn the death and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through a 40-ish day period of prayer, repentance, fasting, and giving.  I think what makes the difference between a trivial Lenten fast and a true Lenten fast is the heart and purpose behind it.

Sure, you could just give up Facebook for 40 days, or you could give up Facebook for 40 days and use that half hour of your day to instead pray for the less fortunate.  Giving up junk food is super common and an okay idea.  But wouldn’t it be better to give up junk food because you recognize that when you are experiencing a particularly difficult emotion, you run to the fridge for comfort instead of running to the foot of the cross?

Lent Comic

Two of my roommates have taken this view of fasting to heart, both choosing to fast in different ways that are physically difficult and spiritually healthy for them individually.  Ariana has taken what is seen to be a more traditional route, giving up meat and most other animal products. However, this has great spiritual significance for her because she has spent a great deal of her life working as a cook/chef and she finds great joy in cooking and enjoying fabulous meals.  Brittany, on the other hand, who can barely cook to save her own life and usually subsides on granola bars, yogurt, and cereal, has committed to eating healthily and learning to cook during Lent.  (She has successfully made french onion soup and some sort of fish dish so far.  We are encouraging her to now choose foods that leave less of a lingering smell in the apartment.)  :)  Despite how strikingly different their fasts are, the hearts behind their choices are very similar.

Several weeks ago, I received an email from World Vision (super amazing organization that all of you should check out and donate to RIGHT NOW!) about something their ACT:S division started called Lent 2011: Relentless Acts of Justice.  (Click the pic below to learn more.)

Relentless Acts of Justice

ACT:S is the activism division of World Vision.  From their website, “We are a network of young activists fighting to change the brokenness in this world, writing our own modern-day Book of Acts.”  (The book of Acts chronicles the actions of the Apostles after Jesus ascended to Heaven as they continued the work He began and helped to spread Christianity across the globe.)  Over the six weeks leading up to Easter, subscribers to the RAoJ email receive daily emails helping them to “emulate Christ’s incarnation [AKA: live more like Christ] through six real-life stories that we will bring to life by giving up everyday luxuries.”

So during this season of Lent, I’ve decided to blog daily about my experiences as I go through Lent with ACT:S.  Unrealistic, perhaps, but I know how much I struggle to discipline myself in spiritual areas, so I know this is something I need to do.  With my brand new 40 hour a week schedule (up from 19) and my insatiable perfectionism (I have been working on this post for almost 3 hours), this will be a struggle, but it is one I take on with joy.  I will do my best to blog daily.  And I hope you will read on a similar schedule.  :)

[EDIT on 5.3.2011: So, this didn’t happen. Turns out that working two jobs and already struggling to balance your life doesn’t bode well for trying to add another daily task that takes a huge chunk of time.  Ah well, maybe next year?]

Lentenly yours,
breylee♥